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Implementation of the Ramsar Convention on South American wetlands: an update

Authors Wittmann F, Householder E, de Oliveira Wittmann A, Lopes A, Junk WJ, Piedade MT

Received 9 July 2015

Accepted for publication 6 October 2015

Published 27 November 2015 Volume 2015:4 Pages 47—58


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Vijaykumar Muley

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr David Lane

Florian Wittmann,1 Ethan Householder,2,3 Astrid de Oliveira Wittmann,4 Aline Lopes,2 Wolfgang J Junk,5 Maria TF Piedade2

1Biogeochemistry Department, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany; 2MAUA Working Group, National Institute for Amazon Research – INPA, Manaus, Brazil; 3Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, TX, USA; 4Institute for Biological Sciences, Federal University of Amazonas – UFAM, Manaus, 5National Wetland Institute – INAU, Cuiaba, Brazil

Abstract: This review presents the current knowledge regarding South American wetlands and summarizes major outcomes of the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance for the South American continent. South America is the wettest continent on Earth, with wetlands accounting for ~20% of its area. Wetlands harbor an exceptional rich biodiversity also including many endemic plant and animal species. They provide numerous ecosystem services in terms of provisioning material goods, regulating biogeochemical cycles, providing habitat, sustaining cultural practices, and importantly, contributing to the maintenance and generation of regional biodiversity. Major threats to wetlands include agroindustrial expansion, deforestation, soil erosion, mining, pollution, inadequate resource use, and large infrastructural projects such as reservoir construction for hydropower. South American countries were slow in adopting definitions, delineations, and classifications of their wetlands and in inventorying wetlands according to their extent and ecological characteristics. However, Ramsar sites are increasing continuously in both numbers and extent, covering 113 sites, totaling an area of ~373,000 km2. Threats to wetlands and Ramsar sites are ongoing, mainly because of the lack of specific national wetland policies, limited financial and human resources, general lack of infrastructure, and limited monitoring capacity. The process of changing perceptions on the value of wetlands and their ecosystem services is improving, but it could be hastened by improved infrastructure and cooperation between Ramsar sites, wetland scientists, and local stakeholders. Outreach to raise awareness of societies, administrators, and governments of the critical importance of wetlands continues to be a major challenge for the conservation of South American wetlands.

Keywords: hydropower, Ramsar sites, wetland classification, wetland inventories, conservation

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